We all do it. Some of us try to limit it, some of us love to do it. If we do it too much, it can spiral out of control. And as much as anyone can try, no one can not do it.
What am I talking about? Spending money of course.
Sometimes we spend money on things we want. We will always have to spend money on things we need - shelter, food, clothing, healthcare, etc.
And, of course, we have to get money before we spend money. We have to get paid.
But what if I told you that it’s possible to get paid - in cash - whenever you spend your hard-earned money?
True, you’ll never earn more than what you spent, so you’ll still end up with less money than if you never let go of those dollar bills in the first place. But you will end up with more cash than if you didn’t do these things in the first place.
The secret? It’s not really a secret. There are three different ways to make money when you spend money: cash back credit cards, cash back apps, and shopping portals.
I’ll let you know which ones I use (and provide referral links where available) as well as mention a few that are popular, but I don’t use.
Cash back Credit Cards
Cash back credit cards are pretty simple - whenever you swipe your card (or insert with the new chip-based cards) - or whenever you use your card online - you earn a percentage of the purchase price back in cash.
Typically you can either receive the cash as a statement credit (I don’t recommend this, but if it works for you, it’s fine) or as a direct deposit into a bank account (this is what I recommend).
How can banks and credit card companies afford this? Well, merchants pay a percentage to accept your card (typically around 3%). The card companies just give you part of that percentage.
Also, from people who don’t pay their statement balance in full and pay interest. Don’t be one of those people - ALWAYS pay your statement balance in full to avoid any interest!
What I Use
The Capital One Quicksilver offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. When you open a new account, you can earn a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is similar in that it also offers 1.5% unlimited cash back on every purchase. Its signup bonus is currently slightly larger - $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
The Chase Freedom (which I sometimes refer to as the “Chase Freedom Regular” to distinguish it from the previously mentioned card) has 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The 5% is limited - up to $1,500 in combined purchases (or $75 cashback) - plus you have to activate the category each quarter. The 1% is unlimited, however. The signup bonus is the same for that other Chase Freedom card - earn $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
A note about the two Chase cards - occasionally Chase offers something they call (unoriginally) Chase Offers. This is a special type of cash back - I’ve seen 5%, 10%, and 15% - when you spend at certain merchants that you earn on top of the regular card earnings. The limit is typically much lower - often you can only earn up to a few dollars. Merchants I have redeems include Lowe’s and Starbucks.
The Citi Double Cash effectively earns 2% cash back. You’ll always see people describe the 2% as something like “effectively” because the method Citi uses for this card is unique. You get unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus another 1% back as you pay for those purchases - so 1% plus 1% is 2%. You do not earn cash back based on balance transfer, cash advances, account fees, interest, or returned items, however. I do not believe there is a signup bonus.
The US Bank Cash+ lets you earn 5% cash back on your first $2,000 (in other words, $100 in cashback) in purchases each quarter on two categories of your choice. You also get 2% cash back on one category. Finally, there’s 1% cash back on all other purchases. The signup bonus is currently a $150 bonus after you spend $500 within the first 90 days of account opening.
For the US Bank Cash+, the categories you get to choose from rarely change. Currently, they are as follows:
- TV, Internet & Streaming Services
- Home Utilities
- Ground Transportation
- Select Clothing Stores
- Cell Phone Providers
- Electronics Stores
- Gyms/Fitness Centers
- Fast Food
- Sporting Goods Stores
- Department Stores
- Furniture Stores
- Movie Theaters
- Gas Stations
- Grocery Stores
What Else Is There
The Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card is another 2% cash back card. The only catch is that “The 2% cash back rewards value applies only to Points redeemed for a deposit into an eligible Fidelity account.”
The Discover IT is similar to the Chase Freedom Regular - you earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum (which is $1500, or $75 cashback). You do have to activate the category. You also earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. The signup bonus is a bit different for this card - they match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
Cash Back Apps
Cash back apps are mobile apps - for either Android or iOS (Apple) - that link either your credit (or debit!) card number, or your bank account login, and earn cash back in a similar, and as passive, fashion as using the above credit cards.
I will admit, entering your bank login information or credit card number into these apps is a bit unnerving. Honestly, though, your bank information is probably safer with them than at a gas pump.
Oh, and your credit card is probably already for sale on the dark web anyways…
What I Use
The Pei app (pronounced “pay”) lets you earn in not only cash but also bitcoin (for those cryptocurrency enthusiasts) or gift cards. If you’re curious how much can be made with Pei, check out my post How Much Can You Make with the Pei Cash back App?
UPDATE Pei is dead
The Bumped takes a new twist on cash back - or maybe they should call it stock back? With Bumped, you earn fractional shares of companies as you spend money at those same companies. I’ve written two full reviews on Bumped - on review from when I first downloaded the app and one nearly a full year later.
UPDATE Bumped has completely shut down.
The next two I haven’t earned much with, but nevertheless are hugely popular. Dosh lets you earn cash back for purchases you make with a linked credit card at participating stores. (I think Dosh is some sort of British slang for money.) Drop, well, it’s very similar.
What’s awesome about these is that they all stack - meaning you can sign up for all four and earn four times (not really, the merchants tend to differ, but not always) the cash back!
What Else Is There
There’s a new competitor to Bumped call Bits of Stock. I currently don’t use it because I’m on the waiting list.
I’m not aware of any other apps at the moment, but feel free to mention any in the comments at the bottom if you know of any.
You know how people share affiliate links, and they earn a commission when you make a purchase?
(You don’t? Well, that’s how so-called “influencers” tend to make their money - they suggest a product and get a cut of the profit if you buy said product through their link)
Shopping portals do the same thing - except they share that affiliate money with you.
What I Use
I really only use one - eBates. Well, except it’s not called eBates anymore, it’s called Rakuten - which is the name of the Japanese company that bought eBates back in 2014. Honestly, I liked the name eBates better - it’s a play on the word “rebate” using the late-nineties “e-“ prefix that was so popular.
The reason I mainly use eBates (ahem, I mean Rakuten) is that I have their browser extension installed on both mine and my wife’s browsers. Otherwise, we’d forget to use it. Shopper portals are not as passive as cash back credit cards or cash back apps.
Occasionally I’ll use Shop through Chase - which is a feature of the various Chase Cards and their “Ultimate Rewards” program.
What Else Is There
There’s a ton out there - if you want to see who is offering the best rates for what, check out Cash back Monitor.
Do you use any of these cash back services and programs? Are there any that I missed? Am I completely wrong on anything I said?